Breaking down barriers: Accessibility
Accessibility is at the forefront of Adelle Ferguson’s work. In February 2020, Adelle was hired as a dedicated lead on the strategic communications, activities and initiatives related to the Accessibility unit led by Aaron Frank, Director, Accessibility Unit at Shared Services Canada (SSC).
She believes strongly in respecting the Government of Canada’s Policy on Communications and Federal Identity in her work. “If what I produce isn’t accessible, then it is not responsive to the diverse information needs of the public,” she said.
Non-accessible information and services can create barriers for Canadians and can result in excluding persons with disabilities from participating, engaging and accessing important programs and employment in the public service. This is why Adelle encourage public servants to work with experts in accessibility and those with lived experience, to develop inclusive tools together and help serve all Canadians equally.
“By adhering to the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service’s “Nothing Without Us” principle, the Government of Canada’s communications community can leverage each other’s efforts to create and share common tools and approaches that are inclusive,” said Adelle.
A common misconception Adelle hears about accessibility is that it is costly—she says that’s a myth.
“Retro-fitting for accessibility, if it’s not considered early on, can be expensive,” she explains. “But if accessibility is considered at the beginning of a project or program and accessibility is included by default in the planning stages, then it’s not necessarily expensive.”
Adelle says it is important for public servants to understand that communicating in an accessible way is not only the right thing do, but necessary for avoiding creating barriers for others.
“To me, accessibility means enabling equal access to information and services. It also means being inclusive. The way I feel about accessibility is the same way I feel about Official Languages: essential and mandatory,” she said.
There are many resources offered to public servants to implement accessibility in how we work: OPSA’s GCpedia (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) page that holds tons of accessibility information, tools and resources
- Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada and measuring its progress in each of the 5 goals;
- Accessible Canada Act;
- Leverage professional development opportunities related to accessibility, such as:
- virtual learning and information sessions on how to make your documents accessible offered by SSC’s Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology program;
- Join the Accessibility Strategy Working Group (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) led by TBS;
- Plan to participate in activities for:
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2020. Open to all public service employees, this year’s half-day, virtual event will be hosted by Shared Services Canada. The IDPD 2020 GCpedia page (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) is currently under development, so check back for updates on planned activities;
- National AccessAbility Week, celebrated annually during the first week in June.
- Consider joining a GC communications Community of Practice (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) to discuss and share with your peers how your field of work designs for accessibility, and applies an accessibility lens.
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